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Scaphoid fracture

What is Scaphoid Fracture?

The scaphoid is the most commonly broken carpal bone in which is responsible for 80–90 % of all carpal fractures. A scaphoid fracture is a break to the scaphoid bone, which is one of the eight carpal bones in the wrist.

What are the symptoms of a scaphoid fracture?

The symptoms of a scaphoid fracture are:

  • pain when you pinch your thumb to your index finger with the palm facing downwards
  • reduced and painful movement of the wrist.
  • swelling around the painful area
  • weak wrist and reduced grip and pinch strength
  • wrist pain on the thumb side

This type of fracture may not always come up of the first X-ray.

What causes scaphoid fractures?

Scaphoid fractures caused by:

  • A fall on an outstretched hand, particularly if you land on the base of the thumb
  • The wrist being forced backward most commonly although it can be fractured bending it forward.
  • It is often that the fall involves height or speed

Scaphoid fractures are divided into three categories and each requires different treatment to make sure the bone heals completely.

How do I know if I have a scaphoid fracture?

You may have a scaphoid fracture if you experience the ablow symptoms. You will need to be examined and complete imaging to correctly diagnose your condition, this can be done by a physiotherapist and GP. You may need follow up X-rays as sometimes these types of fractures do not show up, therefore, after a period of 10 days the fracture is most likely to show up. Once the swelling settles down, you tend to feel the symptoms of a scaphoid fracture around the bone. There may be on-going pain around the area where your thumb meets your wrist after a heavy fall, even if the X-ray at the time was clear.

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How can physiotherapy help with scaphoid fractures?

Physiotherapy can be helpful if you have a scaphoid fracture by:

  • Cast or splint – Your physiotherapist will be able make you a plaster cast or thermoplastic splint fitted
  • Rehabilitation – Once your cast is removed or after you have an operation.
  • Exercise – Your physiotherapist will be able to give you personally designed exercises that will allow you to regain your full movement and wrist strength.
  • Mobilisation and soft tissue techniques – If you have had reduced movement during this time due to a cast of a splint than mobilisation and soft tissue techniques will be required.

What can I do at home?

It is important to ensure you understand your physiotherapist instructions and advice. This includes:

  • Keeping your arm elevated in the early days allowing swelling to reduce
  • Complete exercises that were prescribed to you
  • Do not complete activities that cause you pain although it is usually safe to use the injured hand for light activities, with the splint or cast on and within the limits of pain.

How long until I feel better?

Scaphoid fractures take 6–12 weeks to heal although it is common that people may experience some stiffness or mild discomfort up to 12 months after their fracture. 

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

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Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.